Iowa at WIS Preview
Madison, WI - Injuries on offense early in the season forced Iowa to focus to its defense. The shift in priorities has more than paid off.
The No. 11 Hawkeyes look to win their 11th straight when they visit Big Ten foe Wisconsin on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Wisconsin -3 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Iowa +3 (View College Football bet percentages).
Iowa (6-0, 2-0) began the season in the Top 25, but was unimpressive in a season-opening 17-16 victory over Northern Iowa that dropped it out of the rankings.
The Hawkeyes have moved back into the poll since, although their offense hasn't been much better.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been inconsistent while the receivers have struggled to stay healthy. Despite those issues, Iowa has won 10 in a row dating back to last season - its longest win streak since a 20-game run from 1920-23 - and it is off to its best start since 1985, sitting atop the conference standings with Ohio State.
"What we all need to just understand is that this thing is pretty fragile," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We've got six tough games coming up. None of us, at least in this building, need to worry too much about the big picture at this point."
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 30-28 win over Michigan on Saturday - the third game they've won by three or fewer points. Stanzi was 20 of 38 for 284 yards and two touchdowns. He threw an interception on his first pass which led to a Michigan score, but rallied with the help of his defense.
"We're going to have to fight adversity, and we've had to do that a lot in our football games, and that's just going to help build character," Stanzi said.
Stanzi has thrown eight interceptions, including three that have been returned for scores this season, but he's had to deal with a receiving corps that's been hit hard by injuries. Tony Moeaki, who caught six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns against the Wolverines, missed the previous three games with a sprained ankle, and Ferentz announced Tuesday that reserve Paul Chaney Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Despite the problems on offense, Iowa has been able to count on consistency from its defense, which continues to come up with big plays. Against Michigan, Brett Greenwood intercepted Denard Robinson with 46 seconds remaining and the Wolverines at their own 38-yard line.
Iowa began this week tied for second in the Football Subdivision with 19 takeaways this season. It's third in the Big Ten in scoring defense, holding opponents to 15.8 points.
"You can't be satisfied because when you are satisfied that is when you stop growing," defensive end Broderick Binns told the Hawkeyes' official Web site. "We know that it is going to take everything we have from here on out. I think we have a good defense, but I think we have the potential to be a lot better. There are some things we need to clean up."
The Hawkeyes' defense will try to take advantage of Wisconsin's offensive line, which struggled in a 31-13 loss at then-No. 9 Ohio State on Saturday. The Badgers (5-1, 2-1) outgained the Buckeyes 368-184 and held them to eight first downs, but struggled to overcome their own breakdowns.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien threw two interceptions that were returned for scores and he was sacked a season-high six times. John Clay, who rushed for 184 yards and three TDs against Minnesota the week before, was held to 59 yards as he struggled with an ankle injury.
"John, in my mind, took a huge step forward," coach Bret Bielema said. "I know statistically he wasn't where we need him to be. That was a very good defense we were going against, but John had to do a lot to get himself ready to play last week and he did it."
Bielema is trying to make sure the Badgers don't repeat their 2008 slide, when after climbing into the Top 10 following a 3-0 start, they proceeded to drop their next four en route to a 7-6 record.
"Just the overall demeanor of this team shows me that they're going to be able to bounce back and play a great game on Saturday," Bielema said Monday.
Iowa has won five of the last seven meetings with Wisconsin, including a 38-16 victory last season. This is the Hawkeyes' first visit to Madison as a ranked team since 2003.
Posted: 10/13/09 11:35PM ET